2019 New Zealand Supercross Championships

It is going to be the start of a jam-packed, rip-fire three weeks of intensity when the New Zealand Supercross Championships kick off in the South Island this weekend.

The Brent Scammell Honda-sponsored opening round of three in the Transdiesel eni Lubricants-sponsored national series is set for Winton, just north of Invercargill, this Saturday.

This high-profile event at Winton, at the VetSouth Super-X Track in Ryan Road, is billed as “the world’s southern-most supercross”. It is always an extremely popular venue and sure to draw a large crowd.

Following a week later is round two – but for the SX2 (250cc) class riders only – sharing the programme with the fourth round of five in the Australian Supercross Championships, and this will be staged at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

The New Zealand Supercross Championships will wrap up with round three at the Amisfield circuit, on the outskirts of Tokoroa, a week after that on November 23.

The entry list for round one is jammed with talent, with Bay of Plenty riders Cody Cooper, Ben Townley and Tyler Steiner among the fancied riders in the premier SX1 (open) class, with Rangiora’s Cody Murphy also with a chance of finishing on the podium.

The SX2 (250cc) class could be particularly hot, with former national supercross champion and former GP motocross star Josh Coppins perhaps the favourite, although it’s certain he’ll be challenged by strong performances from fellow Kiwis with international experience, young men such as Mount Maunganui’s defending national SX2 champion Josiah Natzke and Taupo’s Wyatt Chase, while riders such as Nelson’s Liam Hutton, Balclutha’s Madison Latta and the 250cc junior supercross from last season, Rangiora’s Korban Paget, could also feature.

The programme also includes races for Junior 125/250 and Junior Lites (85cc) class riders, as well as having races for mini 4-8 years’ 50cc class riders and mini 7-11 years’ 65cc class riders in a support role.

Motorcycling New Zealand supercross commissioner Jim Cooper said the series opener would be “an awesome spectacle”.

“There are some big names there among the entries. Supercross is great because it puts the sport in front of the public like no other. It’s great also to have the Australians involved at Mt Smart Stadium for round two and we’ll see a few more international stars there. We are trying to grow the junior aspect of the sport and so the mini support classes will be popular I’m sure.”

Transdiesel (eni Lubricants) spokesman Jason Steele said he was thrilled to be involved in the series once again.

“This is the third year that Transdiesel has supported the New Zealand Supercross Champs and we are really pleased to see the championship develop in the way it has, to now be included at Mt Smart Monster Energy event. Transdiesel is full of very passionate people and we all enjoy being involved in all types of motorsport and this year we look forward to our eni Kawasaki team winning a second supercross championship.”

The Winton event, hosted by the Southland Motorcycle Club, is sponsored by Brent Scammell Honda, Monster Energy supports the Mt Smart Stadium event and the final round in Tokoroa is sponsored by Craig Stevens Yamaha.

2019 New Zealand Supercross Championships calendar:

Round one: 242 Ryan Road, Oreti Plains, Winton, November 9, 2019
Round two: Mt Smart Stadium, Penrose, Auckland, November 16, 2019 (SX2 class only)
Round three: Moffat Road, Amisfield, Tokoroa, November 23, 2019

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper (Honda CRF450), expected to feature among the leaders in the glamour SX1 class on Saturday.

It was an orange crush as KTM bikes caused a traffic jam of sorts at the finish line of the weekend’s annual Husqvarna Hard Adventure Enduro near Tokoroa.

Indeed, the finish line was dominated by the distinctive orange-coloured motorcycles as Thames rider Chris Birch rode to victory on his KTM 300EXC, leading KTM 1-2-3-4 past the chequered flag.

Runner-up, finishing nearly three minutes behind Birch, was Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM 300EXC), with Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM 300EXC) completing the podium, while New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (KTM 300EXC) crossed the line in fourth, actually missing out on a podium placement by a whopping 25 minutes.

This was the fourth annual running of the event, again attracting the country’s elite dirt bike riders to the Central North Island venue, and it featured three days of gruelling race action, starting with a prologue event in the SATCO logging attachments yard in Tokoroa on Friday afternoon.

Here riders were challenged by a man-made obstacle course, the results from this preliminary tussle determining the starting order for the racing in nearby forestry land the following day.

Birch won the prologue, although he said he “was very lucky to do so”.

“I nearly went over the handlebars at the first obstacle,” said the 39-year-old father-of-one. “I made my way through the course and ended up beating Jake (Whitaker) by just a wheel width at the end.”

Bronze, silver and gold level courses were offered, designed to cater for all the various skill levels, and Kiwi international Birch was in his element as he led the 18-rider gold level contingent into action on Saturday.

The Kiwi international – who has remarkably recorded major wins in dozens of different countries over the past few years, including at the notorious Romaniacs Hard Enduro in Romania – ended day two with a massive 16-minute lead over runner-up Buxton and the rest of the chasing pack.

“Day two went really well. It was a big day, with probably 170 kilometres of riding, and fortunately, I didn’t make any mistakes,” said Birch.

“But then I stuffed up day three,” he laughed. “My plan for day three was just to take it easy and ride along with the other guys. I got to the top of a big hill-climb and then chose the wrong track, got lost and ended up circling around to end up back at the bottom of the hill.

“I had to go pretty crazy after that to catch up again. Then I had a stick go through my radiator and I could feel my boot getting really wet with hot water. I used some cable ties to stem the leak and I thankfully made it to the finish.”

Birch ended up winning by two minutes 40 seconds over Buxton, an uncomfortably tight margin after racing for more than 12 hours.

“I was really impressed with the KTM 300EXC. It has different suspension and chassis to the previous model and it really suited the tough conditions.”

Resilience and reliability were key and all but one of the gold grade riders were on either KTM or Husqvarna motorcycles, testimony to the trust that riders place in these bikes.

Rotorua’s Bradley Lauder (Husqvarna TE300) rounded out the top five in the gold grade.

The top three riders in the silver grade were Te Puke’s Paul Singleton, followed by Reporoa’s Brad Kilgour and Tokoroa’s Warwick Batley. In the bronze grade, the top three were Auckland’s Claude Sabatier, Okere Falls rider Lance Roozendaal and Christchurch’s Luke Corson.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Thames rider Chris Birch (KTM 300EXC), top dog at the stand-alone extreme enduro event near Tokoroa over the long Labour Weekend.

 

Porirua’s Dylan Ball created history at the weekend when he became the youngest rider to win the New Zealand Trial Championships in the premier division.

The just-turned 15-year-old won the Expert Grade at the AdrenalinR Mufflers-sponsored three-day contest in Hawke’s Bay over Labour Weekend, the annual event wrapping up on Monday.

Tauranga’s Stefan Merriman won the same title as a 16-year-old in 1989, before he went on to win the junior world title that same year.

Ball could also become a world champion if he keeps the momentum going and he has already experienced competition overseas, tackling the 125cc class at the world championships in Europe and Japan earlier this year, finishing eighth overall out of 20 riders.

Ball, a year 10 pupil at Whitby Collegiate, also won the Junior Grade at the weekend, edging out Hunterville’s Hannah Rushworth, while Rushworth herself did grab a national title, winning the Women’s Grade ahead of Wellington’s Isla Davis and Christchurch’s Evie Hubbard.

His focus was on the premier grade and there he proved unstoppable, clearly winning all three days, out-scoring Christchurch’s Jules Huguenin and Taranaki’s Matt Foster.

Australian visitor Kevin Zarcynski won the New Zealand Experts Grade title last year but he was a no-show this time around.

“The course was right up my alley,” said Ball. “It was mostly steep rocks and that’s a challenge I enjoy. I didn’t drop too many points all weekend. I knew Jules (Huguenin) and Matt (Foster) were riding pretty well, but I just concentrated on doing my own thing. It has been a massive year for me and this result is a huge confidence-booster for me. I have been riding against top opposition overseas and training on pretty extreme terrain. I hope to go back to train more with (former world-class trial rider) Joan Pons in Barcelona next year. I just have to get my school exams out of the way first.”

Other class winners in Hawke’s Bay at the weekend were Whangarei rider Luke March (A Grade), originally from Hawke’s Bay; Taranaki’s Jason Day (Intermediates); Wellington’s Cameron Judd (Mini A); Upper Hutt’s Luke Pearce (Mini B); Upper Hutt’s Ben Pearce (Mini C); Napier’s Paul Simmonds (Presidents Grade); Wellington’s Mark Sidebotham (Sportsmans); Tauranga’s Warwick Merriman (Clubmans); Rangiora’s Paul Jackson (Twin Shock).

Meanwhile, the North Island versus South Island Teams’ Challenge was won by the North Island, 25 points to 14.

Motorcycling New Zealand trial commissioner Paul Jackson said everyone was really happy with the content of the sections.

“They were long sections and quite physical, but not dangerous. The riders needed to maintain their concentration. We had 22 mini riders entered and that was impressive,” he said. “The minis was the highlight of the weekend. We introduced this class this year and it has been a great success. The minis had great support from parents, which was good to see too.”

Run by the Hawke’s Bay Motorcycle Club, day one of this event was set at  Tongoio, north of Eskdale, on Saturday, with day two at Waitara Road, off the Napier-Taupo Road, and it was wrapped up with day three at Dartmoor on Labour Day Monday.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The national titles just keep piling up for Stratford’s Camo Keegan.

He was at his authoritative best on the Hack Track circuit near Eltham on Labour Weekend Saturday and Sunday as he successfully defended his premier grade, up-to-750cc class, title at the annual New Zealand ATV Championships.

Remarkably, this was Keegan’s fourth consecutive national ATV title win and his fifth in total.

Sponsored this year by Reid Recovery, the spectacular, steep and flowing grassland circuit just south of Eltham provided an ideal stage for the sport’s elite to express themselves and 30-year-old electrician Keegan certainly produced some sparks.

When his younger brother Scott Keegan, usually his main title threat, suffered an engine failure and was unable to finish race one on Saturday, it meant that Camo Keegan could probably take things a little easier.

But up stepped Otorohanga’s Shane Robinson, who rode superbly to keep the defending champion honest, Robinson eventually claiming runner-up spot in the grade, while Scott Keegan recovered from his mechanical glitch to snatch the third podium position.

“I was pretty fit this year,” said Camo Keegan afterwards. “I had trained hard heading into the nationals and I think that’s what made the difference for me. I was able to go hard for the whole race.”

“Shane (Robinson) is riding really well at the moment, but the DNF for Scott (Keegan) had a huge influence on the results,” Camo Keegan acknowledged. “My goal was to grab another title, of course. I was a bit lucky though too, because my bike’s engine failed in race five and I still managed to get to the finish. I used my practice bike for the final two races and finished third and then first in those.”

Meanwhile, in other results, Egmont Village rider Cory Whitelock won the Production 450 title ahead of Wellington’s Sheldon Jupp; Christchurch’s Bailey Graham won the Production 250cc title ahead of New Plymouth’s Kaed Smithson; Christchurch’s Harrison Graham won the Production 125cc class ahead of Christchurch’s Madison Bleeker; Patea’s Ian Campbell won the Veterans’ class ahead of Gisborne’s Ian Newman and New Plymouth’s Luke Etheridge won the Clubmans’ class ahead of New Plymouth’s Joel Chamberlin.

Otorohanga’s Amy Corston, won the women’s grade ahead of Christchurch’s Lori Graham and Stratford’s Dannielle Reid, while Reid’s mother, Niola Reid, and sister Ashlee Reid rounded out the top five.

Event organiser Jono Keegan said the track was a “bit dusty”, but it all went according to plan.

“The riders and spectators too really enjoyed the track and we managed to sneak in with the weather. It had been raining in the days leading up to the event, but then we had a clear, dry weekend.”

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

The revving engines will reach fever pitch at The Hack Track near Eltham this coming Labour Weekend as the nation’s elite All-Terrain Vehicle bike racers head into battle.

The 2019 New Zealand ATV Championships – sponsored this year by Reid Recovery – will test riders over two days on the steep, fast, flowing and undulating grassland circuit just south of Eltham this Saturday and Sunday, the spectacular track within easy view of State Highway 3.

And it could again be a big weekend for Taranaki fans of the sport, with two local riders – brothers from nearby Stratford in fact – having dominated the sport over recent seasons and expected to do so again this weekend.

Sibling rivals Camo and Scott Keegan have, between them, shared the premier title over each of the past four years and they will obviously be favoured to wage a terrific battle for top honours again this weekend, especially on home turf.

Camo Keegan actually has four national title wins to his credit in the premier grade – having won the title for the first time in 2013 and then scoring three in a row, winning in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – so he knows he’ll have a target on his back this weekend.

In addition to his brother, other challengers in the premier grade will likely be Otorohanga’s Shane Robinson, while Christchurch’s Taylor Graham, Egmont Village rider Cory Whitelock, Gisborne’s Ian Newman, Eltham’s Shane Hurliman and Stratford’s Kim Reid might also fancy their chances.

There is certainly no shortage of talent and Christchurch’s George Doig, Christchurch’s Greg Graham, Christchurch’s Harrison Graham and Blenheim’s Lucas Collins will also be worth watching out for.

Among the female racers, expect to see Otorohanga’s Amy Corston, Christchurch’s Lori Graham and Stratford’s Nicola Reid (along with her with daughters Ashlee and Dannielle) to be among the leaders.

The event is being run by the Taranaki Quad Riders’ Club, in conjunction with the Taranaki Motorcycle Club and has attracted a wide spread of experience from both ends of the spectrum.

“Riders don’t have to be terribly competitive to be involved. We just want them to go out there and give it a go and enjoy themselves,” said Taranaki Quad Riders’ Club secretary Nicola Reid. “It’s a real family sport. We have riders as young as five-year-old Jaxon Wood, from Rahutu, for instance, and riders in their 50s too, like Hawke’s Bay veteran Wade Taylor.”

Motorcycling New Zealand ATV commissioner Dennis Cox said he was looking forward to another great weekend of racing.

“We have a good number of riders in the premier grade this year, despite the fact that (former champion) Ian Ffitch is sidelined with a shoulder injury and Craig Cox has committed himself elsewhere this weekend, away racing a modified sprint car.”

Organisers plan to run four races for each class on Saturday and then three per class on Sunday.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Stratford’s Kim Reid (Honda), who will be battling for points in the premier ATV class this weekend.